Saturday, December 31, 2011

Colored stained glass cutting properties

Colored stained glass cutting properties vary by color, type of glass and by manufacturer.

You may have noticed when you're working on your stained glass suncatchers that some colors and types of glass cut easier than others.

But, do you know why?

To make a technical long story short, it's all about the additives introduced during the manufacturing process to color the glass.

The easiest stained glass colors to cut are green and blue.

The easiest glass to cut overall is green or blue cathedral glass.

Some types of glass cut easier than others and some brands cut differently.

For example; almost all red cathedral stained glass is easier to cut than red opalescent. 

In general, excluding the glass type, white stained glass is the hardest color to cut. This is due to the Antimony Oxides or Tin compounds that are used to give the white glass it's color.

Without the introduction of various compounds, stained glass would not be stained glass.  It would come out clear.

Sometimes when you cut red opalescent stained glass, you might notice a slight gold tinge along the score line. These are minute flakes of Gold Chloride that was used to color the stained glass red.

You won't see it in all types of red glass or in colors other than red.  This is because Gold Chloride isn't used to color blue, green, purple, violet, etc.

The oxides that are used to stain other colors of glass don't have the same properties as Gold Chloride and are not visible when you score a line.

Stained glass with different opacities also cut differently.  It takes a little practice and experience to learn how to cut different types and colors of glass, but it's not that difficult.

When you come across a glass that is hard to cut, just press a little harder on the cutting head.  But, don't press so hard that flakes of glass fly out from your score line.

When you make a perfect score you will hear a unique "static" like "zip" sound.  If you don't hear the sound, it doesn't mean that the score line won't break.
Some types of glass require more pressure and others just a slight amount of pressure to make a good score.

The same type, color and opacity of glass may cut differently from manufacturer to manufacturer.  All manufacturing processes are not the same.

When you purchase a new type and color glass from another supplier, make a test cut or two to get used to it.

It's better to screw up on a test cut, than to screw up your stained glass project.

Knowing the colored stained glass cutting properties of the different types, colors and manufacturers of the glass you are using, will eliminate a lot of potential problems before they occur.

Arts & Craft Books

How Do They Make Stained Glass Colors?

I'll bet many of you wonder how do they make stained glass colors.

Well, here is a simplified explanation.

Quartz sand or silica, is the main ingredient in stained glass.

The melting point of silica (silicon dioxide) is 1723 C. This is a relatively high melting point which makes silicon dioxide very difficult to melt without the use of additives.

Potash, lime, and soda are normally added to the silica to lower it's melting point and make it easier to work with.

The mixture is brought to temperature in a furnace where other compounds are then added to the mix to give it color.

When silica, potash, lime and soda is brought to temperature and melted, the clear mixture turns to glass when it cools.

Different stained glass colors are made by adding various metallic compounds to the molten glass as it is being heated.
  • Blue glass is made by adding Cobalt Oxide
  • Green glass is made by adding Iron Oxide or various compounds of Copper.
  • Red glass is made by adding Gold Chloride or Selenium Oxide.
  • Yellow glass is made by adding Cadmium Sulfide
  • Blue-Violet glass is made by adding Cobalt Oxide
  • Purple is made by adding Manganese Dioxide
  • Violet is made by adding Nickel Oxide
  • Yellow-Amber is made by adding Sulfur
  • Emerald Green is made by adding Chromic Oxide
  • Fluorescent Yellow, Green is made with Uranium Oxide
  • Amber Brown is made by adding Carbon Oxide
  • Greens and Browns are made by adding Iron Oxide
  • White is made with Antimony Oxides and Tin compounds
Other shades are made by adding various combinations of these compounds during the melting process.

Various copper compounds create the colors Blue, Green and Red and lead compounds are used for Yellow.

There are many different types of stained glass which are made by various manufacturers using their own techniques and formulas.

For instance, Dichroic glass is made by fusing two pieces of glass together, often with a thin metal wafer, glass pieces or other object sandwiched between them.

Because of the additives used to color and form the different types of glass, some colors are easier to cut than others.

Some types of glass are also more difficult to cut than others and will be discussed in future articles.

Now you know how they make stained glass colors.

Arts & Craft Books

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Soldering Safety Tips

Although most of us use common sense when constructing our stained glass projects; there are a few soldering safety tips you should pay attention to that will keep you healthy and safe.
  • First, make sure you solder your projects on a fire resistant surface.
Don't solder your stained glass projects on a metal, composite paper or a wooden work table. A non-flammable ceramic tile or glass table top is a perfect work surface for soldering stained glass.
  • Make sure you wear protective safety glasses when soldering. 
Regardless of how good you are at soldering, solder will occasionally "spit" or "spatter" when the iron gets too hot or there is a contaminant on the joints.

Hot solder really burns and if it gets into your eye could cause permanent blindness or serious damage to your eyesight.
  • Its always a good idea to have a first aid kit near your soldering area as well as a fully charged fire extinguisher.
  • Never leave your soldering iron plugged in and unattended; especially if you have pets. 
Cats are notorious for being nosy and could cause a fire if they knock over an unattended soldering iron.

Most heat controllers have an "On" light that will easily tell you when your iron is on.

Without a heat controller, you can't always tell if the iron is on unless you unplug it from the electrical outlet.
  • Make sure you don't overload your electrical outlets. 
Don't plug all your power tools into the same circuit you are using for your soldering iron unless you use a surge protector.   Surge protectors are the best insurance for preventing overloaded circuits.
  • Never solder your stained glass projects in an enclosed room without using a good quality fume extractor or an exhaust system.
Solder contains some percentage of lead which is toxic to humans and can cause a variety of illnesses.  When soldering stained glass, it's a good idea not to breath in any of these fumes, especially for a prolonged period..

Several excellent quality fume extraction systems are available for soldering stations that will collect and absorb noxious fumes, yet will not break your pocketbook.   A few of the more modestly priced are pictured below.  Just click on a picture for additional information.

           Inland Portable Fume Trap - International Voltage     Solder Fume Extractor    
           Bench Top Fume Extractor     Hakko Smoke Absorber Arm Stand

The easiest way to create an effective exhaust system is to install a cheap, high c.f.m. window fan close to your soldering station to suck out any toxic fumes.  The single or dual fan systems pictured below do the job and are moderately priced.


Commercial stained glass studios use high tech exhaust systems situated directly above soldering stations to remove fumes.  The prices for these systems are not realistic for the average hobbyist.
  • Wear a mask
Wearing a good quality breathing mask or respirator will also help if you do a lot of soldering. However, if you have in place a good quality fume extractor or exhaust system; a mask is not necessary. 
  • Wash Your Hands! 
It's also a good idea to keep your work surfaces clean and to wash your hands after handling lead solder.

Lead and acid flux will not pose a problem to your health if you just follow your mother's advice and wash your hands when you're finished up with your project.  Eating a snack or a sandwich while you are soldering a stained glass suncatcher isn't a good practice.

According to government statistics, children and pregnant women are affected more by lead than adults, so it's a good practice to keep high risk people away from your work area when you do your soldering.

These soldering safety tips are not intended to scare you away from working on stained glass.  They are simply sound, common sense practices, that should be implemented in any stained glass studio work area.

Be Safe! 

Arts & Craft Books

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hanging Stained Glass Suncatchers

Arts & Craft Books

There are several methods of hanging stained glass suncatchers once they are ready for sale or just to admire next to your window.

Hanging hooks are are most frequently used and can be purchased in several shapes and sizes for specific types suncatcher projects.

In addition to hooks for suncatchers, wood and metal frames, there are several types of retainers for stained glass cabinet inserts that are available.

Hooks for hanging wood framed stained glass projects.

Any time you hang a stained glass project in a wooden frame, make sure the hooks are placed on the sides of the frame. Not on the top.

The weight of the stained glass will over time cause the frame to bow if you attach the hangers to the top frame member.

This applies to frames made from any material.
  • Panel roll hooks are sold in pairs with the screws needed for mounting and are the most common type of hanger for wood frames. 

    These brass plated hooks can be purchased from any stained glass supply house or from your local Lowes or Home Depot.
  • Side mount picture frame hooks can also be used for mounting wood framed stained glass projects. 

    These are also brass plated and come with mounting screws in packs of 1 pair to up to 50 pairs.

When hanging metal framed mounted staing glass projects, you can use hanging rings, came framed Handy Hangers or glass clips.


Rings are the most commonly used for hanging stained glass suncatchers and panels. They can be purchased in bulk packs in brass or silver and come in 1/4", 3/8' or 1/2" diameters.

You easily can make your own rings with single or multiple strand copper or silver wire wrapped around a pencil or dowel of the correct diameter.

Snip off the excess wire and leave a tag long enough to tack solder the ring to the metal frame.

Make sure to tin the copper or silver ring before soldering to the metal frame.

Came framed Handy Hangers

Handy Hangers - 5 Pr
are installed in the metal frame to become an integral part of the frame. They can be purchased in packs of 5 or more pairs at a resonable cost. The picture below links to the installation procedure.

Handy Hangers - 5 Pr

Glass Clips

Clear polycarbon glass clips are sold in packs of up to 25 and make for a simple secure installation. Glass clips allow about an inch of space between the window and stained glass project for air circulation and are easily removed for cleaning.

For stained glass cabinet inserts you can use either polycarbon glass clips or metal retaining clips.

Polycarbon glass clips are the kind you buy for mounting mirrors and other glass panels. They come in packs of four or in bulk in packs of 50 and can be purchased in most hardware stores.

Metal retaining clips are a simple inexpensive way to secure a stained glass panel inside the rabbet of a cabinet door. Screw the clips so the retaing button extends just over the edge of the rabbet enough to securely hold in the glass panel.

Again, you can purchase retaining clips and mounting screws in any hardware store in bulk packs at a reasonable price.

When hanging stained glass suncatchers; rings and hanging wire are your best bet.

Many people use suction cups to hang their projects directly to a glass window pane. These are available in many sizes in bulk packs at a reasonable cost.

Just remember one thing. There are times in humid climates when suction cups let go and your stained glass project will hit the floor.  Believe me, it happens more than you think!

Excess humidity, an unintentional bump or a window blind hitting the suction cup, can create a disaster to your valued suncatcher project.

A better more secure method of hanging stained glass suncatchers is the ring and wire hanger method.

As described above, tack on your hanger rings and then run picture wire, heavy fishing monofilament or even single strand wire fishing leader material through the rings.

Secure with wire connectors of the proper diameter and crimp securely with crimping pliers.

Hang from the ceiling with screw in hooks, toggle hooks, etc.

This method is much more secure than using suction cups to showcase your suncatchers.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Framing Your Stained Glass Projects

$5 OFF at

Framing your stained glass projects applies primarily to larger square or rectangular suncatchers and wall hangings.

Although smaller suncatcher projects do not require any special framing, many artisans still prefer the look of a came, brass or zinc frame on their projects.

The frame provides the extra rigidity that is needed to hang larger suncatchers and to prevent them from buckeling.

Small suncatcher projects are usually hung with hanging rings soldered to the outside of the project at the seams.

Although you can purchase hanging rings in various sizes from some suppliers, it's much cheaper and easier to make them yourself from copper or silver wire.

Just wrap a piece of wire around a pencil, dowel or other ojbect to create a small circle of the diameter you need and clip off the excess. Leave enough of a "tag" to solder the ring to your suncatcher.

Make sure to tin the hanging rings before tack soldering them to your suncatcher.

Hanging rings can be used on larger sized suncatchers if you "beef" them up a bit by twisting a couple of pieces of wire together before winding it around the pencil or dowel.

Once you tin the twisted wire, you will have an extra strong hanging ring that will not distort or pull off with time.

If you have ever put in the time and effort to produce a beautiful piece of art and then have it break because of a failed hanging ring, you'll start using the extra strong twisted hanging rings on a regular basis.

After you have completed your stained glass suncatcher or wall hanging, you can easily add a zinc, lead or brass frame to it.

  • Measure the perimeter of the project with a ruler or tape and cut a little bit more than the measurement.
  • If your project is a rectangle or square, miter the corners with a fine toothed came saw. A hack saw works just as well if you don't have a came saw in your toolbox.
  • Fit the frame to your piece and hold it in place with T pins or nails. Make sure that all edges of the glass are secured into the full depth of the frame.
  • Flux the corners and all the seams that intersect with the frame.
  • Lightly tack solder each joint. Don't hold the iron on the joint too long or apply too much solder to your joints or you will lose the smooth professional look you are trying to achieve. This is especially true if you frame your project with lead came instead of zinc or brass.
  • Flip your project over and solder all the joints on the reverse side.
  • Next lightly flux your hanging rings and the area where you want to attach them to your frame.
  • Lightly tin the hanging rings and when cool tack solder them to the frame.

    Try to place the rings at the intersection of the frame and a solder seam. This is the strongest area of the frame and the best place to solder hanging rings.
Wash off the flux from your project and apply your patina when dry.

Framing your stained glass projects with wood is also a good idea if you have a large wall hanging or a wall clock project.

If you are a carpenter, it's an easy matter to create any type of custom frame for your project.

Otherwise, you can go to a specialty frame shop and have one made to the dimensions of your project or create your project to the dimensions of an off the shelf frame.

Thats it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How To Care For Your Soldering Iron

Learning how to care for your soldering iron is one of the basics that needs to be learned right out of the box.

Unfortunately, too many of us unnecessarily ruin perfectly good soldering irons by leaving them on when not in use or by improperly cleaning their tips.

I have been guilty of both at one time or another.

I'm sure there have been times when the phone rings or we need to let the dog out to tinkle that we walk away from a project thinking that whatever we needed to do would only take a minute to finish up.

An hour later when we remember that we were in the middle of soldering a suncatcher and we come back to find an overheated iron sitting in its holder, we thank our lucky stars the house didn't burn down.

This might be an exaggeration, but allowing a soldering iron to sit at its operating temperature while not in use for long periods, will substantially shorten the life of the iron.

Many newcomers have a hard time getting the solder to flow properly.

One of the many reasons for this is a dirty or oxidized tip.   You cannot solder with a corroded or oxidized soldering iron tip.  I just isn't possible.

When you first purchase a new soldering iron, the tip of the iron has a nickel plating on it.

Before using it, the soldering iron tip needs to be tinned and properly "seasoned" with a sal ammoniac block.

The "old school" method of keeping the tip of your soldering iron clean was to shine it up with a damp sponge or wet rag.

Although I was taught many years ago that this was the best method for cleaning a tip, I always wondered why the tip oxidized and turned colors using this technique.

When you hit the damp sponge or rag with the hot iron, steam is created and any minerals that are in the water will react with the metal tip of the iron to oxidize and corrode the tip.

These days there is a better way to clean your iron and keep your tips soldering like new for years.

Clean your soldering iron with soldering flux (which is acidic) on a sal ammoniac block (which is highly alkaline).  

By using flux on the sal ammoniac block, you are creating a neutral medium free of contaminants to clean your tip. 

Put some flux on the block, roll the tip of the iron around in the neutral mixture, and add enough solder to "tin" the tip of your iron.    Clean the excess crud off the tip with a brass wire brush and you're ready to solder. 

When done correctly, the tip of your iron will be clean and shiny.

If you do this every time you put your soldering iron away, you'll get many years of extra use from your tip.

The brief video snippet below by Rabbicoon Productions describes the process


If you take a second or two to learn how to care for your soldering iron and follow these suggestions,  you'll get many years of use from it.

Arts & Craft Books

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Why You Should Grind Your Stained Glass Project Pieces

Obviously, one of the main reasons why you should grind your stained glass project pieces is to create a perfect fit.

Most new artisans working with stained glass go through a learning curve before they become comfortable with their skills.

Cutting glass accurately from a pattern template takes practice.

Not everyone who first picks up a glass cutter can apply the correct pressure and speed to accurately guide the cutting head well enough to make perfect cuts. It takes time and practice.

Many other stained glass artisans fall into the perfectionist category and are incredibly precise about how their stained glass project pieces fit together.

Another reason to grind your stained glass project pieces is to remove the sharp edges that remain after cutting your pieces out with a glass cutter.

Many artisans will lightly run the sharp glass edges across the grinder head to give the glass a lightly blunted edge.

The rough blunted edge is believed to improve the adhesion of the copper foil and the look of the finished product.

Make sure you remove any glass powder residue and thoroughly clean and dry all the glass pieces before you start foiling.    Otherwise, the glass dust will prevent the foil from properly sticking to the glass.

Special grinding heads such as the ones below are specifically designed for edge grinding and are used primarily in making Tiffany style lamp shades.
Twofer Grinding Bits - Ripple Bit
Grinding also smooths out jagged or irregular edges from bad cuts and could save you from getting some cut up fingers.

I'm sure you there are other reasons why you should grind your stained glass project pieces before assembling then into a finished project but in any event, a stained glass grinder is one of the most useful accessories you can have in your work shop.

Arts & Craft Books

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Karen's Suncatcher Corner: 9 Steps For Creating Stained Glass Suncatchers

There are basically 9 steps for creating stained glass suncatchers that will make the job of project construction easier to accomplish.

  • Design Your Pattern on Paper

The first step in creating stained glass suncatchers is to decide on what you want to create and then put it on heavy stock paper. Business card stock or heavier works well.

Pattern design can be as simple as cutting stained glass triangles, squares, hexagons, octagons, circles, half circles or combining these into an attractive design.

More challenging complex pattern designs such as multi-part scenes, fish, angels, animals, insects, holiday motifs, etc. can also be created limited only by your imagination.

Decide on what you want to create, put it on paper and make sure it can be turned into a stained glass suncatcher.

Beginners often create deep detail when designing their patterns only to find later that the pieces are extremely difficult or impossible to form into a finished suncatcher.

Avoid sharp curves and very small pieces that cannot be cut from glass or properly foiled.
  • Transfer Your Paper Pattern To The Glass
Once you're satisfied with your paper pattern and are sure that it can be easily made into a stained glass suncatcher, it's time to transfer your pattern onto the glass.

You can cut out the paper pieces with double cut scissors, identify and number them by color and trace each piece onto the glass with a white glass marking pen.

Alternately, you can make or purchase a "light box" or "light table"to trace the pattern directly on the stained glass. This is a time saver and almost a necessity for serious artisans.

Whichever method you choose, make sure you take into consideration the amount you need to deduct from each piece for the foil or lead came method of construction you plan to use.
After your pattern is transferred to the glass, cut out each piece and finish it to size using your grinder, glass band saw or circle saw. Dry fit all the pieces and make sure they fit precisely before going on to the next step.
    If you plan on using the foil method of construction:
Wash each piece of stained glass with a dish detergent and thoroughly dry before beginning to foil your project.

Choose the correct width of foil and carefully foil each piece you cut out in the previous steps. Make sure you burnish each piece so the foil sticks properly during the soldering process.
    If you plan on using the lead came method of construction:
Using a lead came vise or a partner with a pair of pliers, stretch the lead came you plan to use for your suncatcher to relieve the "stress" in the metal.

Don't stretch it too much or you will not be able to fit the glass into the slot in the came.

The point here is to remove any kinks in the came and to reduce it's total dimensions.
The stretching actually changes the internal composition of the lead and makes it easier to work with.
  • Cut The Lead Came To Length
Cut each piece of "H" came to fit around each piece of stained glass making sure that the next piece buts into the cut without leaving any space.

The outside "U" channel should be cut in the same manner, to but up to the "H" came without any space.

Use a came saw, came knife, miter saw or an "Exacto" saw to cut the lead.
  • Assemble The Lead Came Around The Glass
Dry fit all the pieces of your stained glass suncatcher on your workbench and flux all the came joints on both sides of your pattern in preparation for soldering.
Solder all the joints in your stained glass suncatcher first on the front side. Make sure not to use too hot of an iron or to hold on the joint too long. Either can put holes in the came joint and cause an unsightly appearance.

Flip your stained glass suncatcher over and solder the back side using the same technique.

Always apply solder to the top of the flat side of your iron and briefly touch the solder joint to get the best appearance and strength.
  • Cement Your Finished Suncatcher
Cement your finished suncatcher using the process described here.
  • Add Additional Reinforcement When Necessary
Occasionally it may be necessary to add reinforcing bars to your suncatcher project when it is constructed using the foil method and has a large number of cuts or is larger than 3 feet square.

Normally all foiled stained glass projects larger than 3 square feet should be reinforced in some manner.

The weight of the individual pieces of stained glass held together by the soft copper and lead solder joints can cause the panel to bow, flex, and eventually fail.

There are two popular methods used to reinforce larger stain glass projects.
  • Adding reinforcing "bars" into the design.
  • Adding a strong line over the top and or sides of the existing project.
We will be posting more on reinforcing various stained glass projects in the near future.

That's all there is to it. Sit back and enjoy your stained glass suncatchers!

Arts & Craft Books

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Making Boxes With Stained Glass

Making boxes with stained glass is not an extremely challenging process, but it does take time and some knowledge to construct them properly.

Stained glass boxes make wonderful gifts.

Every box you create will be to some extent unique.

This means that every stained glass box you give to that very special person, will really be a truly special gift.

Making boxes with stained glass is nothing more than cutting uniform rectangles and constructing them into a three dimensional box shape with one end open.

The most difficult part is making precision cuts and determining the dimensions for all the sides.

The Morton Portable Glass Shop makes the job of making precision cuts a snap and should be one of your investments if you plan to make boxes or panel lamps on a regular basis.

Portable Glass Shop

Not all the sides are cut exactly the same height and width.

If you want your finished box to look like a box instead of a 3D trapezoid, you need to add or subtract the width of the glass you are using from the sides you are cutting.

For instance; a box 5" by 8" by 1 3/4" high, made from 1/8" stained glass, should be cut to the following measurements.

1 pc. 5" by 8" for the top
1 pc. 4 7/8" by 7 7/8" for the bottom (with eased corners).

2 pcs 1 3/4" by 7 3/4"
2 pcs 1 3/4" by 4 3/4"

The front and back pieces of your box must be cut 1/4" less than the actual size of the
top of the box you are making.

The "Professional Boxer" pictured to the left is made by Emerald-Rainbow and can make the assembly of your stained glass box an easier process.

The "Morton Assembly Tray" pictured below can also be used to assemble your box after all the pieces of your box are foiled and tinned.

Morton Assembly Tray
Both systems are relatively inexpensive and both work equally well.

The corners of your box will not be butted together. Instead, the edges will form a "vee" for the solder joint.

This is the reason why each of the sides were cut 1/8" short.

First, tack one corner together at the top and bottom of the joint using either of the above assembly systems. Then continue to tack together the other sides of the box.

Next, solder all of the inside seams of your box together.

Wait a few seconds for each inside corner joint to set before continuing to the next corner or you could lose the shape of the box.

Now start to work on the outside corner seams.

In order to keep the inside seams from getting too hot, use the "tapping" method to solder a bead and fill in the outside corners of the box.

Don't try to run a full continuous bead or you will overheat the inside bead and possibly crack the glass.

Allow several seconds for the outside bead to cool before moving on.

Before continuing, make sure to tin every inside and outside edge on the entire box.

Determine which end of the box is up, and then use the "tapping" method to create a
nice rounded bead on all the outside edges.

Now is the time to attach the bottom of the box to the side frame you just completed.

Tack the four corners and make sure everything is squared up. Then proceed with
soldering all the inside seams the same way you soldered the four corners.

When you are finished with the inside, do all the outside seams.

DO NOT over solder your joints or you could get the underlying foil too hot and melt the glue that holds it to the glass. Worse yet, you could put a hole in the seam if you hold the iron in one spot too long. Work quickly!

Except for the top hinge, your stained glass box is now complete.

You can now construct a hinge for your lid using a hollow tube and a solid rod.

First, cut your hollow tube to the length of the inside of your box using either a Dremel cutoff tool or a fine blade hacksaw. Be careful not to flatten out the end.

Next, cut two rods in the form of an "L" using a pair of electrician's pliers. The long end should be about 2" and the short end about 3/4" to 1".

Use steel wool to clean the tube and then tin it. Use a round toothpick broken in half and insert each half in the ends of the tube so the solder doesn't block the openings.

Center the tube on one end of the top and tack the tube into place on the top and bottom of one edge of the seam.

Once the tube is tacked to the lid, tape the lid on to the box and insert the short end of the "L" shaped rod into each end of the tube.

Next, tack the long edge of the "L" to the corner seam of the box on both ends. Be careful not to solder the tube or you will not be able to open the box lid.

Now finish soldering the seams of each "L" and gently remove the tape holding the lid on the box.

At this point you can tack a piece of chain to the left or right inside corner of the box.

Cut the chain to length so that when the lid is fully open it will open just past the 90 degree point. If the lid opens too far, the box will be top heavy. If the lid does not open far enough, the lid will not stay open on its own.

Now solder the other end of the chain to the inside of the lid's seam.

This allows the chain to fall inside the box when it is closed.

You can also add a piece of filigree for use as a handle, or just twist a piece of wire into an oval, tin it and tack it to the center of the lid's seam.

Be careful not to solder the lid to the box when you do this step.

Your can now patina and wax your stained glass box if you like, or just wash it up and use it as is.

Making boxes with stained glass is time consuming but in reality quite easy.

There is an excellent but lengthy comprehensive tutorial series that explains how to make boxes with stained glass that you should view if you have the time.

The URLs are listed below:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13

Arts & Craft Books

Saturday, August 20, 2011

An Easy Method For Cutting Stained Glass Rings

Although there are several methods for cutting perfect circles from stained glass, until recently there has not been an easy method for cutting stained glass rings.

The has got to be the ultimate accessory for your stained glass workshop if you have the need to cut perfect circles, rings and frame borders on a regular basis.

Morton Circle And Border System

Not only does it make cutting circles and borders a snap, it also makes it easy to cut out rings for your stained glass suncatchers, wind chimes, mobiles or wall hangings.

The video below demonstrates how easy it is to use this system for cutting circles and rings for your stained glass projects.

As you can see, this incredible tool makes creating precision circle borders an easy project for even the novice stained glass artisan.

Circle borders for your stained glass projects
up to 14 in diameter are easily created by first cutting strips, trimming the strips to trapezoids, and then placing them in the tool to produce a smooth, even arc cut.

The system includes a PC and Mac compatible CD Rom with detailed set up instructions that makes the calculations for you to insure a perfect fit.

If you wonder what to get a stained glass artisan for their birthday or Christmas present that has virtually every tool imaginable in their shop, you might want to consider this nifty tool.

If there is another easy method for cutting stained glass rings
that is easier and more trouble free than this system, I'd like someone to please let me know about it.

I'll be happy to post your comments.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How To Cut Perfect Circles From Stained Glass

The easiest way to cut perfect circles for suncatchers, wind chimes, etc. is to use a commercial circle cutter to score a perfect circle.

If you don't care to spend the money to purchase one, you can just score the circle freehand. Just make sure you end the score line where you started the score.

Silberschnitt Pro Circle Cutter

After the score the line, flip the glass over on a piece of corrugated cardboard and press along the line using your fingers until the line "runs" all around the circle score line.

Flip the stained glass back onto your cutting table with the score line up and score a few tangent cuts off of the circle.

Using your running pliers or your fingers, break off the outside tangent scores from your circle until you have a finished circle.

The finished circle should break out easily once the tangent cuts have been broken away.

When done properly, you should have a perfect circle without any rough edges.

The trick to cutting circles in stained glass is to make a series of concentric scores into the circle and then removing them in sequence.

This technique is also used to make sharp concave cuts in stined glass.

Concave curves are difficult to master; but if you remember to make only one score line for the curve, then a series of concentric scores back into the curve and remove the pieces in sequence, you shouldn't have any trouble.

The primary score should be removed last by gently tapping it out with the ball end of your cutter.

Instead of using concentric score lines, some artisans prefer cutting severe concave curves using a crisscross hatch pattern. It's really six of one, half dozen of the other.

If you plan on making a lot of concave, circle or other types of intricate cuts and money isn't a factor; you should consider purchasing either a
Ring Saw
or a Band saw for glass cutting these pieces.

When you graduate from creating stained glass suncatchers and get into Tiffany style lampshades; having a glass grinder, band saw or ring saw on your workbench is pretty much a necessity.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Light Tables: Why You Need A Light Table

Beginners often question why you need a light table for stained glass suncatcher construction.

The answer is that you don't REALLY need a light table, but having one facilitates the cutting process to a great degree.

Light tables or light boxes as they are sometimes called are great additions to any stained glass workshop.

They are an invaluable aid to cutting opalescent and dark colored glass that you can't see through to cut in the conventional manner.

Light tables are also a great aid when laying out your stained glass suncatcher projects.

When you can actually see the light coming through the back of the glass project that you are constructing, it makes it much easier to accurately position and esthetically arrange the different types, textures and colors of glass in your pattern.

Light tables are normally constructed of wood, frosted glass and some sort of fluorescent or incandescent lighting fixture.

If you plan to be cutting stained glass directly on your light box; make sure you use either frosted acrylic, or at least `1/4" thick plate glass for the surface. This is needed to withstand the pressure that is exerted when making a cut.

You can use clear plate glass for the surface and "frost" it using Krylon's frosted glass finish spray, applying a window frosting film, having it sandblasted, or paying a little extra to get the real thing.

For reflective purposes, the insides of the box should be either lined with thin gauge metal, metal foil, or just painted white to provide the most light possible from the fixture you are using.

Almost all the supplies you need can be purchased at Lowes, Home Depot or any other retailer for under $50.00 if you are a DIY enthusiast.

This YouTube video is a little lengthy but shows one type of light table construction that will give you an idea on how to proceed.

The dimensions, light fixtures and type of surface you use are all variables that you can adapt to your stained glass workshop.

Light tables like any other tool make the job of constructing stained glass suncatchers easier.

This is precisely why you need a light table in your workshop.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

How To Cement Your Lead Came Projects

When using the lead came technique to create your stained glass projects, an important step you need to learn is how to cement your lead came projects.

After all the joints of your lead came project have been soldered on both sides and the finished piece is much larger than a small suncatcher, you need to cement the lead came.

The cementing process will strengthen and waterproof your finished project.

This process is absolutely necessary for large projects like glass windows, doors, or
decorative wall hangings.

Learning how to cement your lead came project isn't really rocket science but there are some steps you need to follow if you expect your project to have a professional look.

Natural Color Cement - 15 Lbs
  • First, either whip up a batch of cement or purchase a "ready to use" cement that is specifically designed for use with stained glass.
  • Next, using a natural hair bristle brush, force the cement under all the lead came leaves of your project.
  • Force the excess putty out of the leaves from the lead came if you have used flat came. Do this with your lathkin or a smooth piece of wood.
  • Now using a sharp pointed dowel, remove any excess cement from around the joints.
  • Next, scrub your project with a dry natural bristle brush after sprinkling some fine sawdust or whiting over the project. This polishes your project and cleans away any remaining oils, dirt or grimy grease.
  • After you have completed one side of your project, turn it over and repeat the process on the other side.
Place your project on a flat surface, let it air dry for 24 to 36 hours and you're finished.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Foiling Your Stained Glass Suncatcher Project

Once you have all the pieces of your pattern cut out, you are ready to start foiling your stained glass suncatcher project.

Every piece of glass must be correctly wrapped in copper foil in order for your finished project to hold together without falling apart.
  • To start, it's important that all the pieces of your pattern are free from oils and glass particles. Failure to thoroughly clean each piece of glass could prevent the foil from properly adhering to the glass.
  • Once your glass is cleaned, remove the paper backing from the back of the foil as you work along the edge of the glass.
  • Center the glass on the foil so that the overhang on each side of the glass is as even as possible. Then carefully wrap the foil around the edge of each piece of glass. Overlap at least 1/4" of foil from where you started your wrap and cut off the excess.
  • Next crimp the foil tightly around the edges of the stained glass.

    Use a foil crimping tool, a fid, a blunt piece of wood or just your fingernail to burnish the foil on both sides of the outside edge of the glass so that it sticks firmly and evenly to the glass.

    Your finished edge should be smooth without any noticeable crimps or humps. The strength and appearance of your finished stained glass suncatcher will be ruined if you do a sloppy wrap job.
  • When you're satisfied with all your wrapping and burnishing, you are ready to position the pieces of glass on your pattern.

    • If you are making a panel, use strips to keep your pattern square.
    • If you are making a free form suncatcher project, hold the pieces in place with plastic headed push pins or nails if you are using a wood backer board.
  • After your pieces are positioned to your liking, it's time to tack solder all the joints in your project.

    Melt enough solder onto each joint to hold the pieces firmly together. You don't need to be super neat during this step, just use enough solder to keep your pieces from sliding apart. The "tacks" will be remelted when you finish your seams.
  • Next, use a brush to apply flux along the foiled seams of your project.

    Make sure not to use too much flux and that you don't flux portions of your pattern you don't expect to be soldering in one sitting.

    Soldering flux left too long on copper will cause it to oxidize and tarnish. In this condition it is difficult to solder a decent looking joint without needing to clean or re-foil the glass.

    If you do get called away from your project after the flux has been applied, try using some household white vinegar mixed with table salt and some water to remove the oxidation.
  • After you're finished tacking up your project, you are ready for beading.

    As the name implies, with the tip of the iron held horizontally to the seam, you slowly move the soldering iron and the solder along the joint to form a rounded bead.

    Apply just enough solder to form a bead along the seam.

    • Too much solder or an iron that is too cool will cause an uneven ridged bead.
    • Using too little solder or too hot an iron will cause a flat seam with no bead.

    Experience and practice are the best teachers here. After a while you will learn how to solder a uniform bead on both sides of your pattern.

    For strength, always bead both sides of your project.

  • If your project is a panel and you don't plan to frame it or use U lead came on the outside edges, you will need to give the outside edges of your project a more finished appearance by beading the edges.
    Beading the edges is a two stage process; "tinning" and final beading.

    • Apply a thin coat of solder to the edges of both sides of your project. This is called "tinning".

    • Next, bead the edges by holding the edge you need to solder horizontal to the work table.

      Melt enough solder to the edge, so that it slowly rolls down the sides of the foil to form a uniform rounded edge.

      This takes practice to perfect but creates a professional look and improves the strength of the finished piece.

    Stained glass suncatchers with rounded outside edges must be beaded a little bit at a time. On curved edges, try beading only about an inch at a time.

    Let the solder set and then come back to add another inch or so to the bead, remembering to keep the edge you are working on horizontal to your table until the entire edge is beaded.
  • After your edges are all beaded, you can add loops to hang your stained glass suncatcher project.

    Curl a piece of copper or brass 18 or 20 gauge wire around a pencil and form a loop. Cut back about 1/4" from each end of the loop intersection.

    Tin the loop and tack it onto the edge of your project where you want to place your hanging chain.
  • The last step in foiling your stained glass suncatcher project is to wash your project with a mild detergent in warm water to remove all the remaining flux.

    You can use a commercially made flux remover but soap and water is cheaper and does the same job.
If you like, you are now ready to apply patina to your stained glass suncatcher project to change it's appearance.

The chemicals that are available are corrosive so wear rubber gloves and wash your hands after working with patina.

When you have the look you desire, wash and dry your project and apply carnuba or bees wax to seal and protect your finish.
Foiling your stained glass suncatcher project is arguably the most important step for creating a professional looking project.

Monday, July 4, 2011

How To Properly Solder Your Lead Came Suncatcher Projects

How To Properly Solder Your Lead Came Suncatcher Projects

Learning how to properly solder your lead came suncatcher projects is not difficult but there are some tricks you need to be aware of.

It's true that anybody with a soldering iron and some flux can solder but to make your stained glass project look really professional try out this method of soldering lead came.

Temperature is extremely important.

Regardless of what type project you are working on, the temperature of your soldering iron is critical.

An iron that is too hot will cause the solder to actually bubble. An iron that is too cold causes uneven solder joints.

Test the temperature of your soldering iron on a piece of lead came. If it melts the lead came your iron is way too hot.

Reset your thermostat and wait a few minutes until the temperature evens out and try again.

The iron should be hot enough for the solder on your project to flow evenly but not so hot that it actually melts the lead came.

Brush soldering flux onto the lead came joint, place the solder over the joint and apply the flat surface of your soldering iron over the solder until it melts and just covers the intersection of the lead came joint.

A common error newcomers make is to apply too much solder to the joints.

This causes a ball or a ridge to form at the intersection of the joint and makes the finished piece look very unprofessional.

I can't stress this too much; DO NOT use an excessive amount of solder on the lead came joints.

Use juse enough solder on the joins to keep it small and flat around the edge.

Once one side of your project is complete, turn it over and solder the reverse side.

When your iron is at the correct temperature, you won't have any problems with solder bubbling, balling, ridging or flowing through to the other side of the piece.

A good soldering iron and thermostat will make the job of soldering easier but nothing replaces a lot of practice.

Inland Studio Professional Soldering Iron Mika 100w Studio Line Soldering Iron - International Voltage

Hakko 556 Soldering Iron

Click on the pictures for an item description.

Mini Phaser Temperature Controller Mika Tempright Temperature Controller

Remember, "practice makes perfect!"

Learning how to properly solder your lead came suncatcher projects is a very important step that you must master if you plan to create professional looking stained glass products.